|St Nicholas of Tolentino (1245-1305)|
Nicholas was born to poor parents who lived not far from Tolentine and who, until his birth, had been childless. They went as pilgrims to Bari, in southern Italy, to pray at the shrine of St Nicholas to be blessed with a child. Shortly after their return home, to their great joy, a son was born to whom they gave the name Nicholas.
It seems that Nicholas felt called to the religious life from his earliest years. Having met the Prior of the Augustinian community in Tolentine, he applied to be accepted in the local monastery as a novice. He passed through the years of formation and study and in the year 1270 he was ordained a priest.
Shortly after his ordination, he had a vivid dream in which a deceased fellow Augustinian appeared to him and begged his help: “I am suffering in these flames, by which the good God, accepting my repentance, is mercifully purifying me. I beg you to celebrate a Mass of the Dead for me, so that I may be freed from my torments”.
Fr. Nicholas spent the night in prayer and next day he asked the Prior for permission to offer his Mass for a week on behalf of the suffering souls in Purgatory. He did so and soon afterwards the same priest appeared to him again and assured him that he and many other souls had been freed from Purgatory.
This incident convinced Nicholas of the need to pray incessantly for the souls in Purgatory, and to offer the sacrifice of the Mass for this purpose. It remained the outstanding characteristic of his spirituality. In 1275 he was appointed to the community in Tolentine and he remained there until his death on Sept. 10th 1305.
He was much sought after as a confessor and spiritual director but it was as an advocate for the souls in Purgatory that he is now remembered, and is invoked as their patron. He was the first Augustinian to be canonised as a saint , in 1446, and 700 years after his death his remains are still venerated in the basilica dedicated in his honour in Tolentine. To very many he is revered as the Patron of the Holy Souls.
Devotion to St. Nicholas of Tolentine.
He is invoked mainly as an advocate for the souls in Purgatory, especially during Lent and during the month of November. In many Augustinian churches, there are weekly devotions to St Nicholas on behalf of the suffering souls. The whole church dedicates itself to prayer on their behalf on 2nd November each year, the Commemoration of all the faithful departed, and that day has special significance for the devotees of St Nicholas of Tolentine.